'We made a mistake': Instagram apologizes after removing plus-size woman's photo

Meghan Tonjes fought back against Instagram banning her photo, and won.
Meghan Tonjes fought back against Instagram banning her photo, and won.Meghan Tonjes via YouTube

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By Marisa Kabas

Meghan Tonjes is proud of her body, and was trying to show off her curves in an Instagram photo when she ran into a roadblock: The social network removed the image.

After posting a picture of her rear end, the plus-size musician and vlogger received a message from Instagram that the photo had been removed "for violating our Community Guidelines."

Tonjes was upset at what she felt was unfair treatment because of her weight, given that celebrities like Kim Kardashian and models like Emily Ratajkowski often post similar or more revealing photos.

So she took to YouTube on Monday to share her message, posting a video as part of her web series "F.A.T." (Frequently Asked Tonjes) to talk about the situation. 

"I have no shame, I've posted photos along my weight loss and transformation of me in gym clothes," she says in the video, "in underwear, just photos of parts of my body that I'm super happy with and I'm super proud of and I've embraced getting older. I have pride for my curves. My still very fat body, I like a lot."

She noted she'd run into a similar problem a year ago after posting a photo of herself on Tumblr in a sports bra and underwear, and that her photos were being flagged because of her weight, not because they were more revealing than other users'.

Tonjes is part of a vocal community of women striving to create a more body positive world, one in which women of all shapes and sizes feel good about themselves. She says she saw the incident as an opportunity to start an important dialogue.

In a YouTube video, Tonjes addressed the image that had generated the issue with Instagram (shown in the top right corner).Today

"If I feel like a conversation should be had, I'm going to have it," Tonjes told TODAY.com by phone from Los Angeles. "I didn't think [Instagram] would see it, but I thought it would start an important conversation about how we see bodies and how certain bodies are seen. I just wanted people to talk about it and think about it. I did what I know how to do, and that's make a YouTube video."

An Instagram spokesperson shared some good news for Tonjes with TODAY.com in a statement on Wednesday, revealing it had restored the photo.

"We try hard to find a good balance between allowing people to express themselves creatively and keeping Instagram a fun and safe place," the spokesperson said. "Our guidelines put limitations on nudity and mature content, but we recognize that we don’t always get it right. In this case, we made a mistake and have since restored the content."

When TODAY told Tonjes the photo had been restored, she was thrilled.

"That's awesome," she said. "That makes me so happy. I didn't blame Instagram for taking it down. My issue was the reporting system. They send an email because someone flagged it, so they figure, oh, there's probably something wrong. And there's no way to appeal, and no human eyes to check it out."

She hopes Instagram will find a way to improve its system and give less power to those who are simply uncomfortable with different body types and may report these kinds of photos as inappropriate content. "Just because people are uncomfortable doesn't mean it's against community guidelines," Tonjes said.

She says she's inspired by other Instagram users with similar bodies and goals to hers who are working to change body perceptions. She named Gabi Gregg, creator of the "fatkini" — a bikini for larger-sized women —as an inspiration, as well as Tess Munster, a plus size model, and Honorcurves, creator of the hashtag #HonorMyCurves.

"At the end of the day, I just want to be able to walk down the street and wear shorts like any other girl," Tonjes said. "Loving your body and being comfortable with it is one of the most rebellious things you can do in this world. It's a body revolution, and there are people who don't like it and want to fight against it."